Summary: If faith is so critical to God... why did He make and fulfill a promise to a man who doubted the message of an angel?
OPENING: "The Floating Ball" from "Heno Head’s Simple Science Object Talks."
Take a hairdryer and two ping pong balls. (Since we have a video projector and a long worship hall, we focused a camera on the demonstration and ran the image thru the projector onto the wall). Turn on the hairdryer and put first one ping pong ball on the flow of air. It will be suspended about 3 inches from the nozzle. Then put the 2nd ball lightly above the 1st and it also will remain suspended. Remove 2nd ping pong ball (so that only the 1st remains) and slowly tilt the hairdryer. The ball will continue to be suspended in air until you reach somewhere between the 1 and 2 o’clock position..
APPLY: In life, some things just need to be seen to be believed. What we did with these ping pong balls defies all seeming logic. BUT obviously, we can do exactly what you’ve seen. Ordinarily you wouldn’t have suspected anything like that could have taken place. Thus, some things simply need to be seen to be believed.
I. HOWEVER, while "seeing is believing" may make good sense… and good science, God’s Word seems to go against that very concept. God teaches us that He often wants us to BELIEVE in order to SEE. In fact, that is the very essence of faith:
Hebrews 11:1 “…faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 “… we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
This FAITH is so important to God, that many things can’t be done without it.
In Matthew 14, we’re told the story of Jesus walking out on the sea to the boat that held His disciples. Upon seeing Jesus, Peter declares: "Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water." So Jesus says "Come on ahead." So Peter steps out of the boat and actually begins to walk on the water like Jesus was. But then, he takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to pay more attention to the wind and the waves and begins to sink. Matthew 14:31 then tells us: "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "WHY DID YOU DOUBT?"
In Matthew 17, we’re told of the time when Jesus’ disciples had been approached by a man who’s son was possessed of a demon. They’d apparently cast out demons before, but for some reason they couldn’t heal this boy. About that time, Jesus arrived and the father complained to him that the disciples failed to heal his son. Immediately, Jesus rebuked the demon and the boy was healed. Matthew 17:19-20 tells us that "the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ’Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ He replied, ’BECAUSE YOU HAVE SO LITTLE FAITH.’"
Matthew 13:58 declares that Jesus "did not do many miracles (in Nazareth) BECAUSE OF THEIR LACK OF FAITH."
James 1:5-8 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, HE MUST BELIEVE AND NOT DOUBT, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Hebrews 11:6 goes even farther “ … without faith it is impossible to please God”
Now, if this is true - if faith is so crucial to pleasing God and receiving His blessing - then, we’re confronted with a very interesting story in Luke chapter one (REREAD 1:10-20).
At the time of this story, Zechariah is serving as a priest inside the Temple, offering incense on the altar of incense. Apparently no one else is supposed to be there. But suddenly there appears an angel. And he is so obviously an angel that Zechariah responds as most everyone does when confronted by angels: he’s startled and afraid. This angel gives him such a wonderful prophecy that any ordinary man would have been overwhelmed. But the 1st words out of Zechariah’s mouth are “How can I be sure of this?”
Now, with all due respect to Zechariah - that’s probably not the smartest thing he’s ever said.
His comment reflected an attitude of unbelief. In fact, the angel Gabriel even says: "And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because YOU DID NOT BELIEVE my words" (Luke 1:20).
II. But… if Zechariah is plagued by unbelief here, why would God use him?